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247--265. “Thou wilt not," &c. . Various Scriptural texts are embodied in this passage—such as Psalm xvi. 10, Acts ii. 20, 1 Cor. xv. 55, Psalm lxviii. 18, Coloss. ii. 15, 1 Cor. xv. 26.
281, 282. “ whom thou only canst redeem, their nature,” &c. The construction is “join to thy nature their nature (i.e. the nature of those) whom thou only," &c.
287–289. “As in him perish," &c. See 1 Cor. xv. 22. (Hume.) 317-343. “All power I give thee,” &c. Another metrical coagulation of Scriptural texts. See Matt. xxviii. 18, Eph. i. 20, Phil. ii. 9, 1 Thess. iv. 16, Matt. xxiv. 30, 31, Rev. xx. 11, 1 Cor. xv. 51, 2 Pet. iii. 12, 13, Rev. xxi. 1, 1 Cor. xv. 24-28, Psalm xcvii. 7, John v. 23. It is worthy of remark that Milton, in these speeches of the Father and the Son, should have been thus careful to suppress his own invention absolutely, and to keep close to the words of the Bible. This speech is tinged with many texts besides those here cited.
353. “ Immortal amarant," &c. Ainarant, which means in Greek "unfading," is the name given by Pliny to a flower, real or imaginary, of purple colour, described as preserving its bloom indefinitely after being plucked. Milton appropriates the name, but makes it that of no earthly flower. There is an order of Amarantaceæ or Amaranth, in our present botany, to which "Love-lies-bleeding" and other garden flowers belong.
360.“ With these”: i.e. not with the “ crowns or the “amarant and gold” of line 352, but with the “ Elysian flowers” mentioned since then.
362—364. “ Now in loose garlands . . . smiled." The construction seems to be, “ The bright pavement that shone like a sea of jasper" (i.e. of different colours, with green predominant) “smiled impurpled with celestial roses (the red among the forementioned flowers), thrown off thick in loose garlands.” But the syntax of this whole passage, from line 344 onwards, is very difficult; and it may be pointed
372-415. “ Thee, Father,” &c. These forty-four lines represent the choral hymn of the Angels, in honour first of the Father, and then of the Son. Parts of the passage, indeed--particularly from line 384 or line 390 to line 415 inclusively—might be put within inverted commas as the actual words of the Hymn. On the whole, however, it suits the wording and construction best to suppose the passage to be only Milton's report or imagination of the Hymn in his own person—not an actual Chorus, as in the Greek dramas. The original editions do not settle the point for us, as inverted commas are not used in them for indicating the speeches. Among the texts of Scripture fused into the language of the Hymn the commentators have noted Isaiah vi. 2, Col. i. 15, 16, Rev. iv. 14, Heb. i. 3, John i. 9, Micah v. 15.
377. “but when thou shad'st”: i.e. "except when," &c. 380. “Dark with excessive bright,” &c. Burke points out that here Milton is scientifically exact. “Extreme light,” he says, “ by overcoming the organs of sight, obliterates all objects, so as in its effect exactly to resemble darkness." But exactness in all allusions to luminous effects, as well as a habit of recurring to such by way of imagery, was perhaps one of the results of Milton's blindness. See Introd. pp. 104-111.
383. “ Thee next they sang." Here Milton uses what is now the ordidinary conjugation of the verb—sing, sang, sung. But, in general, he makes sung the preterite tense, as well as the past participle; and there is an instance only eleven lines back (line 372), “ Thee, Father, first they sung." His practice, I believe, varies in the same way with such similar verbs as Sink, Ring, Drink, Begin, &c. Our grammarians now point out that, if we were to be rigidly accurate in our use of such verbs according to Anglo-Saxon precedent, we should decline the preterite sang thus: “I sang, Thou sungest, He sang ; We sung, Ye sung, They sung ;" changing the a into u in the second pers. sing. and in all the persons pluralseeing that this change took place in the Anglo-Saxon as an accompaniment to the terminal inflexions which these parts underwent (Thou sunge, We sungon, Ye sungon, They sungon). In reality, however, our best writers are guided by no such principle, but only by habit and ear. And I see no other principle that guided Milton. His habit was to say sung for the preterite ; but sometimes, as here, he preferred sang.
394, 395. " that shook Heaven's everlasting frame": Todd quotes the exact phrase from Fairfax's Tasso (ii. 91): “Again to shake Heaven's everlasting frame."
413, 414. “My song. . . my harp.” Bentley, who treats the passage from line 372 to line 415 as a choral Hymn of all the Angels, points out that
and our harps” would have been fitter expressions, and thinks that here, as in other parts of the passage, either Milton or his scribe was careless. But the first person singular is frequently used in the Greek choruses, even when many are singing ; and Milton might have had that in view. On the whole, however, as has been said, the entire structure of the passage is adverse to the idea of its being the direct chorus of the Angels; and hence we conceive “my song" and "my harp" to be expressions of Milton himself imagining the chorus so vividly as to join in it or feel its influence.—“Shall be the copious matter of my song.” So, as Todd pointed out, Dante (Par. i. 2): “Sarà ora materia del mio canto." But Ovid, Spenser, and poets generally, have the phrase.
418—422. “Meanwhile, upon the firm opacous globe . . . Satan, alighted walks." Satan had been left only approaching the “bare outside” of the World and ready to alight on it (lines 70-76, and
note thereon); but now he has alighted. Farther descriptions and circumstances are accordingly brought in, to enable the reader to conceive this globose exterior surface of our Universe, on which he had his footing. It is firm and opacous; for it is the “first convex”i.e. the outermost shell-of this round World; itself resting or turning in the starless gloom of Chaos, and holding enclosed within it "the luminous inferior Orbs"—i.e. that succession of smaller astronomical spheres of which the luminous interior of the World consists. Note carefully that the word Orb is here again used not in the sense of a single star or luminary, but as the name for one of those vast imaginary spheres of space—one lying within another, as in the curious nests of ivory balls made by the Chinese--by whose supposed motions, in part common and in part mutually independent, the ancient astronomers accounted for all the celestial phenomena. Respecting these Milton is to say more presently.
427-429. “ Save on that side," &c. Round the whole of that outer shell of the Cosmos, the globularity of which Satan could see as he approached it, but which, now that he is on it, seems a vast-stretching continent, Chaos blusters; but, naturally, the environment is milder on its upper boss, down upon which some glimmer from the overhanging Heaven or Empyrean may be supposed to descend. It is on this upper boss that Satan has alighted. See note, Book II. 1051 et seq.
430. “Here walked the Fiend at large in spacious field”: i.e. on the outer surface of the Universe, as (to revert to our former homely image a fly might walk on the outer surface of a thick and rather opaque lamp-globe, on the whole tending to the top, nearer the orifice of the light.
4314441. “As when a vulture," &c. Milton's figure for the motions of the Fiend on the outside of the Universe is far more poetical than that just suggested ; and its significance is more moral than physical, though still physical too. "As when a vulture,” he says, “bred on Imaus (i.e. on the Himalayas, which word means “snowy countries "), leaving the remoter regions of Asia, makes for the springs of the Ganges or of the Hydaspes (i.e. the Jhelum, one of the tributaries of the Indus), in search of the prey to be found there, but, in his way, lights on the barren plains of Sericana (an indefinite tract east of India—including part of what is now South-eastern Thibet and South-western Chinainhabited, according to the ancient geographers, by a nation called the Seres, from whom came “Sericum" or Silk); so the Fiend, coming from Hell and Chaos, and seeking to gain admission into the inside of the starry Universe, where his prey is to be found, is detained for the present on its bleak outside." It has been pointed out that Milton's recollection of maps must have become hazy when he made Sericana or any part of China lie between Imaus and the springs of the Ganges and the Hydaspes. But it may be answered that, though he makes the
vulture“ bred on Imaus,” he does not necessarily make it come from Imaus in this flight. In any case, if his geography is wrong, the passage affords proof of his readings in geographical books. In the succinct Latin account of China and the Chinese accompanying the map of China in the pretty little Atlas of P. Bertius, with maps by Hondius, published at Amsterdam in 1616, the following sentence occurs : “They have invented chariots which they drive over the plains with spread sails without the help of cattle ;” and the same account is repeated in the Cosmography of Milton's contemporary Heylin. Milton's accurate imagination, or his reading in some book where the account was more minute, suggested the phrase "their cany waggons light"_which would so vividly bring the probable Chinese mechanism before us, even if we were not told by recent travellers that the mechanism still exists in China and that the waggons are of bamboo. The lightness of the waggons and their being driven by wind are circumstances that help out the analogy between barren Sericana and the bleak outside of the World.
440. "this windy sea of land”: a phrase suggesting the struggle of three of the elements—the globose shell itself firm, but like a sea in its immensity, and blown upon by winds from Chaos.
444-497. “None yet; but store hereafter," &c. These fifty-four lines form altogether one of the most extraordinary passages in the poemextraordinary both for the wild vastness of the conception, and for the grim humour discernible through it :-Satan, walking up and down on the windy outside of this Universe, finds not a creature on it but himself. But this was not long to be the case. In the course of time, this outside of the World was to be turned to sufficient account, and was to receive an ample population both of men and things. For it is this comfortless outside of the World as a whole, rolling in Chaos and blown upon from Chaos, that is the true “Limbo of Vanity,” or “Paradise of Fools." The Roman Catholic Church had recognised, under the name of “Limbus Patrum,” or the “Limbo of the Fathers," a certain region on the edge or border of Hell (limbus, “a hem”), set apart for the souls of such of the patriarchal Israelites and of such of the virtuous Heathen as could not be admitted into Heaven on account of the false hopes to which they had trusted for Salvation, but could not well be sent to Hell. Some had fancied, with Ariosto, that the Moon was such a Limbo, or receptacle of human delusions and fallacies and of those who believed in them. But no! The beautiful satellite of our Earth had, perhaps, its inhabitants ; but they must be Saints or Semi-angelical beings, such as fitted those silver fields! The true “ Limbo of Vanity,” to which all the nonsense and vain enthusiasms of the Earth and of man tended, and where they would arrive at last, was not any place within the whole visible starry sphere, but was actually the outside surface of that sphere -the bleak outside shell of the Universe as bounded by Chaos. But
how do vanities, false enthusiasms, and their believers arrive there from the Earth? This also Milton explains; and, in doing so, he necessarily gives, by anticipation, a sketch of the interior constitution of that Universe the outside of which only is yet known to the Fiend of the story. Especial attention must be paid to this portion of the text, thus incidentally and almost parenthetically introduced (lines 463 --497, and more particularly lines 481–489), as it involves Milton's Astronomical scheme of “ Nature,” or the organized Universe proper, as distinct from Infinite Heaven and Hell and Chaos. This is one of the passages, in short, in which Milton most explicitly avows that the Cosmology in which he believed, or which at least he had thought it proper to adopt for his poem, was not our present Cosmology, but the pre-Copernican, Ptolemaic, or Alphonsine Cosmology, which supposed our Universe to consist of a succession of spheres of space wheeling with various motions round our Earth as their stationary centre. detailed explanation of this Ptolemaic system in connexion with the scheme of Paradise Lost in the Introd. (pp. 89-96).
Observe how Milton uses the Ptolemaic doctrine in the passage under notice. Satan is on the outside of the Tenth Sphere or Primum Mobile; which is of firm opacous substance, though the inferior Orbs which it encloses are invisible or of transparent azure. There is nothing as yet on the outside of this shell of the Universe towards Chaos; but ere long it becomes the Limbo of Vanity for the Earth—the suitable receptacle or lumber-room for all Earth’s vain theories, vain enthusiasms, bubbleprojects, utopias, and the authors and dupes of such after they are dead. But how do they arrive there? How do these productions of the Earth, which is the central ball of the Universe, reach this distant outside of the Universe's outmost sphere? In this manner, according to Milton :Although the outmost Sphere is a firm opacous shell, there is one opening in it at least—a break or round hole at that topmost point of the shell where it is in near contact with, and as it were hangs from, the Eternal or Empyrean Heaven. This point, of course, is exactly at the upper pole of the starry Universe, where its axis ends in the Empyrean—for, as the shell is rotating, only at the pole could an opening be constant at the same place. In other words, if we adapt the notion to our own vision, and the
up and down of our maps, this open spot in the outer shell of our Universe at which the whole hangs pendent from the Empyrean as if by a golden chain, and through which there is a communication between the Empyrean and all the azure sphere of stars and worlds, lies beyond and behind our north Pole-star. Situated at that open termination of the axis of the Universe, vision would look down, as from the zenith, or an orifice in the dome, of all Nature, and behold all the stars and other luminaries performing their mazy courses in the azure sphere underneath, with the minute Earth exactly in the centre of all, right underneath the orifice. Whatever, therefore, would reach the Empyrean Heaven from Earth must do so by ascension right upwards to this polar orifice in the